Posted by: glenswatman | February 21, 2010

20100211-20 ARG Buenos Aires URUGUAY Colonia, Montevideo, El Pinar



Christian is a photographer and works in the city so after a
late breakfast we join him for the drive in. 
He walks us to the subway and on the way we see a big old beautiful
Mercedes motorhome parked up.  Christian
tells us these were very popular many years ago but are now unaffordable –
strange as in most other countries motorhomes are taking off as a cheaper way
to holiday.  We take the subway, A$1.10
(40p) to the city centre.  The first
thing we see is the huge obelisk, visible from each of the many wide streets
that converge on the area.  It’s very hot
so we walk slowly and end up in the square with the beautiful Palace of
Justice.  There’s an area with over 50
dogs, many fastened to the railing but looking very healthy.  We find out that in Buenos Aries people pay
for their dogs to be taken out for 3-hours at a time.  The “dog walkers” take all the dogs to the
park and take them on 1 hour walks in turn. 
On the map most things look just a few blocks apart but here the blocks
are very long.  So we decide to take the
hop on hop off double decker bus, A$50 (£8.50) to cover most of the interesting
sectors.  The sign says you can buy
tickets on board and it passes every 30 minutes.   It takes 30 minutes to arrive, you cannot
buy tickets on board as the sign says but the guide agrees to drop us at the
next stop where you can.  Once we arrive
there everyone is told to clear the bus and line up for the start of the next
circuit.  After buying our tickets we are
told we must wait and hour to get on the bus as the next one is full.  We confirm that if we then get off at a stop
and the passing bus is full we would again have to wait another 30 minutes to
hand our tickets back figuring it will be quicker on foot!  Oh well at least we have had a free ride to
the main square.  The cathedral is a very
strange design and looks more like museum with lots of columns outside.  Casa Rosa is about the only other point of
interest.  Head off towards San Telmo
walking down narrow cobbled streets.  The
city museum is free and has some interesting old toys.  Drop lucky at lunch time where “Breoghan” offer
2 courses and drink for A$22 (£3.80) and owner Juan speaks good English.  The pork is fantastic, it literally melts in
your mouth and the cheese and quince dessert is a nice mixture of
flavours.  It is at 389 Pje San Lorenzo
directly opposite “the minimal house” the narrowest building in Buenos Aires,
too funny as it is about as wide as the house we used to have and rent out in
England.  San Telmo is a strange area,
many old crumbling beautiful mansions interspaced with others that are restored
and house restaurants or antique shops. 
After walking miles and ending up at Congress we hop on the original
tube line where they still have wooden carriages.  It is around 5.30pm and we have seen and done
all we want to so take the other subway out for our rendezvous with Christian
later, much later at 9pm.  Settle into Victoria
café to stretch out a couple of drinks whilst people watching.  This is a great spot by a taxi rank where a
red haired driver causes trouble each time he returns.  He has a row with a passenger, a row with
another taxi who parked in front of him and confrontation with a bus and a
private car who gets in his way. Christian arrives with his girlfriend
Geraldine who also speaks good English.  
After a quick meal we set out on a driving tour around the city by
night.  Recycling takes on a whole new
meaning here.  Poor people from the
suburbs converge on the city at night. 
Dragging massive carts they rifle the rubbish for cardboard, plastic and
glass.  Once the cart is full they meet
up with a big truck to load on their finds. 
 The other highlight for us is a
drive through the park in Palermo.  Here
boy/girl prostitutes (chicks with dicks) are at the roadside showing off what
they have on offer.  It is hard to
believe they are really men as they have great figures, nice boobs and look
very attractive.  Before dropping
Geraldine at home we pass “lo do Charley” 24-hour BBQ house which has been in
business every day since 1991, at around 1am we are amazed to see it is packed
out.  Proof of just how different the Argentinean
time schedule is to ours.     



Christian leaves for work whilst we stay behind to relax a bit and
enjoy the pool.   We buy beer, cheese,
salami and olives for lunch with Janas then fit in a siesta before he takes us
to the train station.  For the 45 minute
journey from General Lemos to F Lacroze in the city it is only A$1.35
(23p).   The connecting subway takes us
to our next host’s home in the city. He is at work but left instructions for us
to leave the bags with the janitor and return at 9pm.  Corrientes Street is full of cheap clothing
shops but after a couple of blocks it is repetitious so we settle into a
café.  Oswaldo has told us he is cooking
us a meal for 9pm so we arrive at about 10 minutes to and get reprimanded for
arriving early!  He has his own costume
jewellery shop and lives alone in his apartment.  He asks us lots of questions and seems to
find our answers strange.  He has read a
lot about the British Isles and believes we have afternoon tea with a cake
stand!  Tomorrow he is going out in the
morning to an exercise class and it sounds like he expects us to leave at the
same time.  He suggests we return at 7pm
in time to go to the theatre with him. 
In bed we discuss this and decide that we have already seen enough of BA
(we had hoped Oswaldo might have been able to show us different areas) so will
opt out and move on.



We tell Oswaldo our new plan and leave around 9am.  At the end of the tube we take a taxi to the
port, A$7 (£1.20).  Buquebus have a
ticket office and we buy the cheapest ticket for to Colonia in Uruguay with “Sea
Cat” at 11.30am, $146 (£25).  We make us of
the free wi-fi in the terminal whilst waiting. 
Departure is very efficient much like at an airport.  The 1-hour crossing is extremely smooth and
comfortable.  Arrive in URUGUAY Colonia
del Sacramento at 2.40pm (1-hour ahead of Argentina).  Peso Uruguay0 approx 32 = £1.  The touristic (old) part of the city is vey
compact with shady cobblestone streets and very, a far cry from Buenos
Aires.  We walk to the tourist office
checking out hostels and hotels en route but all are full.  It’s carnival weekend and almost all the
accommodation is full.  The tourist office
says the cheapest available is Hotel Sol Colonia at US$70 for a double
room.  We are not convinced so waste
15-minutes verifying this.  A guy offering
rooms tells us everything is full but we mention the Hotel Sol Colonia and he
calls them.  They have 1 room left and
will hold it for 15-minutes.  We hot foot
it over to find another couple hovering in the door.  The room is in the middle of the building
right by reception and the entry corridor and very average but with the other
couple waiting we have little choice but to accept.  Late afternoon we walk to the UNESCO historic
quarter.  It is delightful with beautiful
old buildings, cobbled alleyways and lots of old cars “planted” around the
streets for atmosphere.  A real pleasure
to wander around for an hour or so. 



– Valentine’s Day and our idea of being here in a nice hotel is shot so
we will move on.   After the hotel
breakfast of coffee, juice and pastries we head to the bus station.  Turil bus company U$50 (£1.50) at 10.30am
will take us to Juan Lacaze.  It is a
very comfortable modern bus but after less than an hour we have to change to a
country bus for the last leg of the journey. 
We take a taxi out to the farm, U$140 (£4) to meet our host Juan.  His father is also there at the farm but just
visiting as he is now retired and rents the farm out to his brother.  Juan is a teacher and lived in the city with
his parents but recently moved back into the farmhouse so that he could receive
Couchsurfing guests.  Romina from
Switzerland is also visiting and has been here for 2 weeks.  Unfortunately they seem to be going through a
time of plagues, first dragonflies, and then bugs and since yesterday the worst
of all mosquitoes.  Very frustrating as
1km away is a beach but you would be eaten alive before you could get
there.  After a delicious ravioli dinner
we need to wash up and find that the kitchen taps are out of order.  It is quite a laugh doing the dishes in the
shower.  The farmhouse is large but has
not been lived in for many years and needs a lot of work.  In the evening I put on a movie and we round
of the night playing UNO.


 MONDAY 15 FEBRUARY – It has been so quiet here during the
night that we don’t wake up until ¼ to 10.  
There are lots of eggs here from the chickens so I cook us scrambled egg
on toast to eat with Romina.   Steve
gives Juan a knock just before 1pm as we need to go into town for food.  He gives me a ride on the back of his scooter
but of course it is siesta time and all the big supermarkets are closed so we
flit between the small ones gathering supplies.   At the farm the mosquitoes are still really
bad so we watch a movie, eat the egg and chips that I cook followed by “tortes frites”
that Juan makes using the leftover oil. 
We then teach the others to play “Arsehole”.  Juan is so taken with it that when he gets
stuck in the “Arsehole” position he gives himself a stupid hat to wear and has
us in stitches. 



The taxi arrives promptly at 9am and Romina joins us for our
ride into Juan Lacaze, U$120 (£3.70).  We
take the 10.40am Turil bus, U$149 (£4.50) with a small bus connecting with the
big coach on the main road.  The journey
is very slow as we get caught up in the cycle race and instead of arriving at
1pm get into Montevideo at 2.30pm.  Couchsurfer
Juan (if in doubt call everyone Juan here) arrives and helps us to find a
room.  Many of the cheaper places are
full as it is still carnival week and we are getting a little desperate so
settle on The Royal with a simple en suite room. 

U$650 (£20).


Last night we had a bit of a walk and found an almost as
nice but much cheaper room just across the street at “Hospedaje Del Este” so
check out and move over.  Take a walk
towards the old city.  Although a capital
city Montevideo is much quieter and calmer than most and we really enjoy our
walk.  The “Casa de Gobierno” is a nice
building with moderately interesting free museum.  It is in Plaza Independenzia and in the
middle is a huge statue of Artigas above his mausoleum (he is the general who
did the most to gain independence).  The
tour of the Solis Theatre is free in Spanish (U$40 in English) and as we just
want a look we go native.  The theatre
has recently been restored and is very interesting to look around.  The pedestrian streets lead us to the old
town and eventually to the market by the port. 
The “Star Princess” is in port so there are many tourists around.  “Layerra” has a lunch special at $160 (£5)
for bread, drink, main course, dessert and tea or coffee and this suits us
well.  The carnival museum is not great
and many of the other are in buildings closed for renovation but we enjoy
wandering the streets and return via the promenade.  Montevideo is at the point where the River Plate
flows out into the ocean and with the heavy rains the water is a very muddy



Mid morning we take the back streets and come across a
magnificent cemetery.  The sculptures are
amazing, one with a general and his battlefield depicted below in 3D.  Reach the promenade then follow it along to
the main town beach.  Settle ourselves
down to sunbathe but the wind keeps blowing the sand everywhere.  Smarter locals have brought chairs and are
sat on the damp sand where the tide has gone out.  Continue around the headland to where the
lighthouse is and the river meets the ocean with a distinct colour change. It
is over 30C a mid afternoon so the mad Englishmen decide to catch a bus back to
the hostel, U$17 (55p).  For us
Montevideo has been nice than Buenos Aires, the night life does not interest so
here the slower, quieter pace of life, the location beside the water and safer
feeling are more appealing. 



is only 5 blocks walk downhill to “Paysandú” street where we catch the bus out
to El Pinar along the coast, U$26 (£90p). 
It takes us about an hour but once we turn off the main road we realise
this is the place for us.  Lots of shady
pine trees with tracks leading to the dunes behind the beach.  The bus driver forgets to notify us of our
stop so we have to walk back a couple of blocks (mental note to remind the
drivers in future).  Although it is after
11am we end up waking Nacho up.  Last
night they went to a Couchsurfing meeting in Montevideo and did not get back
until 4am.  His wife Rosanna has already
gone out to work.  Romina, who we met at Juan’s,
is also staying here.  We are keen to see
the beach so head off with our gear.  It
is a short walk and we find a really nice beach with very few people on
it.  The water is still a little brown as
we are really at the edge of a river but it is more than good enough.  The sky is very cloudy but there is a cooling
breeze so perfect for a stroll, dip and rest. 
When we get back Rosanna is home and we sit chatting for ages.  They are out again tonight at a family party
so Romina and I go to the shop to buy food and I cook us spaghetti bolognaise
but the family are eating out so don’t want to join us.  For the rest of the evening I am on Internet
and Steve watches TV.  We get a huge
storm with lots of thunder, lightning and heavy rain and unfortunately more to
come according to the forecast. Typical when we have found a nice beach stop.  We go to bed at midnight and leave Romani
waiting for her taxi to the airport for her flight to Panama



We are up quite early but it is a dull day and the family don’t wake
up until very late morning.  When they
get up we meet Mat (13), Santiago (5) and Lara (3).  She is the least shy of them all and enjoys
playing “round and round the garden” and “this little piggy” with me.  I spend a lot of time on line chasing up a
cruise.  Travel and accommodation in
Brazil is very expensive so I figure the cruise up the coast from Santos will
save us money visiting 3 islands. 
Unfortunately since getting quotes yesterday through  the level cabin we wanted has gone.  In the end we book with an H class outside cabin
on the Royal Caribbean International ship Splendour of the Seas for 14th
March.  6 nights lead in price $309 but
with taxes and cabin upgrade it comes out at $937 for us both with $150 on
board credit and a bottle of wine.  Rossana
is a lawyer and very knowledgeable about many things so we learn a lot from her
conversation.  The weather is poor so we
don’t make it back to the beach.  In the
evening Tacho cooks us asado with meat from Uruguay and it is very tasty
although eating at 10.30pm I only take a little. 



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